Young Pioneer Tours

What is it like taking the train from Hainan to mainland China

Hainan might not on the YPT list of destinations (yet), but they do got an epic train journey that we mightily enjoyed. So, what is it like taking the train from Hainan to mainland China, or indeed mainland China to Hainan?

YPT’s Gareth went to get the skinny on things.

What the Hainan?

If you’re on YPT’s blog then we will assume that hopefully you’re aware of Hainan Island. If not we will keep the history and geography lessons brief.

Hainan is the biggest Chinese island and is often called its Hawaii. This though should be taken with massive grain of salt as they also call Macao its version of Las Vegas….

It is though the only place within China that offers almost universal visa free travel to people. Before you get exited though they do check before you try to go to the mainland.

And it is connected to the mainland by and old school train that hitches a ride on a ferry. What could go wrong?

Getting from Hainan to mainland China by train and ferry

Assuming you have flown into the island you may have ended up by the airport, or in the beach resort town of Sanya. If you ended up in the former there is great street food, but the airport is like one hour from Haikou train station.

Tickets cost between $20 to $100, which we shall deal with later on. The journey takes around 13 hours from Haikou to Guangzhou, but can be mitigated by transferring to a fast train. There are around 4 trains per day doing the full route.

Haikou Railway Station is alarmingly quiet, at least later in the evening and very easy to manage.

Hainan to mainland China – a question of class….

While many associate Chinese trains with the high speed variety regular folk still take the old school ones. These tend to have 4 classes of ticket. Firstly standing/hard seat which cost about $20, hard sleeper with 6 berths at $40 and soft sleeper with 4 berths at $60.

On this journey though I was to discover that they had Superior Soft Sleeper at $100. This had two bunks a chair and private bathroom and quite simply was amazing. This shall warrant its own article at some point….

Taking the ferry….

When you do Hainan to mainland China your train almost immediately gets on the ferry. This is a long process of splitting yp the train and then loading it onto the ship.

After 90 minutes at sea the same is then done on the other side. The whole process takes about 3 hours, but you are not allowed off so it barely frays like you are on the ocean.

I had hoped for more of a ferry experience, but also appreciate that people can’t be trusted not to dick around and get back to their trains.

The Hainan to mainland China train experience

At YPT we love trains, from taking it to North Korea, Burma and even the Trans-Siberian, so how does Hainan to mainland China fit into the mix?

Essentially this is an old school Chinese train and the kind that the majority of people can still afford. China might well be rich, but this does not mean all Chinese are. That means you have the aforementioned classes as well as carts going around with food and drink, as well as a dodgy restaurant cart.

These Chinese trains are most similar to Vietnamese trains internationally, and basically mimic the ones to Tibet and other parts of China. For me this gives these trains and this journey massive nostalgic value!

Not just for nostalgia though, but also destination, views, the ferry and the new private room option make this an epic YPT style train journey.

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